Well, my wolf luck has been so amazing on this trip, it is bound to have run out. And it runs out today. But not completely!
We begin the day in a heavy snowfall and zero visibility. It's downright warm, though, at 31 degrees!
About an inch has fallen overnight and we are ahead of the snowplow but it is very easy to drive on. How beautiful it makes the Park look! It's a virtual white out in Little America so we continue on, finally passing Rick in Lamar Canyon. He motions for us to turn around so we do.
We stop again at Straightaway and hear the morning's news which is "no sightings yet". But Rick does have Druid signals to the north from here. Maybe we will see them once the snow lets up?
We scope from Boulder a while, and Kathie hears some faint howling. Then I hear even fainter howling coming from the direction of the Peregrine Hills. We can't SEE the Peregrin's but we know where they are supposed to be!
After another hour or so, the snow stops and the day improves considerably. We search and search and spread ourselves out, but no one finds a single wolf! Richard and I scope at Aspen, and several times we hear a lone howler. Our best guess is that it is coming from behind the Peregrines - or perhaps even from Slough flats?
I drive up to Lamar Canyon and stop to look back at Little America, thinking that I might see from here what is hidden from lower down, but I don't know the lay of the land from this angle and can't really make sense of what I'm seeing. So I go back to Straightaway and its lucky I do because Chloe and Becky are about to leave. We bid each other a fond farewell with many hugs.
Richard and I continue to scope from Aspen but still find no wolves. We do find a coyote howling, some bull elk, a bald eagle and two fighting bison cows. I have never seen cows fight before but they were just not having each other! I guess it's like people, some folks just get on your nerves!
Now it's time for me to head home, so I bid adieu to Richard, and then to Calvin & Lynnette. But I can't resist stopping at Hellroaring one last time.
I have the pullout to myself and scope all the places I have seen wolves on this trip and guess what? I find a carcass! I see lots of birds and three squabbling bald eagles. Hmmm, is this a fresh carcass? Whose is it?
Since I no longer have a radio I call Laurie on my cell when I get to Mammoth. I give her a description of the location and ask her to relay the info to Rick. When I get back to Bozeman I find out that not only did my message get through but Calvin and Lynnette got to Hellroaring in time to see 480 himself feeding on that carcass, so I feel very good that the rest of my friends did NOT go wolfless today.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. On my way to the Arch I see five feisty young bull elk romping and play-fighting with each other. I stop to watch them. They are all spikes, although one seems older than the others, judging by his larger set of antlers. They rip up some sage bushes and worry a group of grazing mule deer enough to make them get up and move.
There is no snow at all outside Gardiner. I smile as I remember the thick snow I drove on only this morning! As I near the curve in the river, two mule deer bucks , gallop wildly across the highway, like startled race-horses. I have just enough time to slam on the brakes and pull off on the shoulder as one crosses in front of me and the other behind me. They are LARGE! I sit there a moment, catching my breath. Although I was only going about 50 mph, this is the closest call I have ever had. I doubt I would have missed them if I'd been driving the speed limit. There was no one ahead or behind me, though, which also helped.
I wonder what spooked them? I am tempted to get out to see if the Canyon's might be nearby, but I think better of this and stay in the car.
I have been watching wolves for 8 days but my last sightings are of handsome, healthy, robust young bull elk and deer and I smile to think how hard they will make those wolves work for their living in the coming year. Thank you Yellowstone for another great visit!
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, mule deer (including 2 startled bucks), 3 bald eagles, elk (including 5 fiesty young bulls), bighorn sheep, heard a single wolf howl, and the spirit of Allison